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"Bachelor' ambitions

America, meet Tshombe Edwards, eligible bachelor.

Edwards, 33, was one of about 150 people who applied Saturday in Ybor City to be on an upcoming installment of The Bachelor, the television show in which a bevy of women compete to be a hunky guy's significant other.

The current bachelor, Aaron, is a third-generation banker. Edwards, a former file clerk, is unemployed.

But that didn't stop him from making a spirited, three-minute pitch to the show's producers.

Why you? they asked. "Humor and ability to communicate," said Edwards, who wore shorts, a baseball cap and a cutoff T-shirt that said, "2 Blessed 2 Be Stressed."

The show's producers thanked Edwards and moved on. In addition to 6,000 videotapes sent in by prospective contestants, they are taking applications in a dozen cities.

By February, they'll whittle the list to 25 women and one man. In May, fans can see who they are.

Saturday's stop was at the Dish bar in Centro Ybor.

Some hopefuls came in suits. Some in tight dresses and pumps. Some in jeans and flip-flops. They included teachers, waitresses, college students, a gym owner, a pharmacist and a cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Storm football team.

One by one, they made their cases in front of cameras.

Why you? they asked Stephanie Owens, 24, of Tampa.

"Big butt. Big brain," Owens said. Besides, "meeting men in bars is killing my liver."

Owens, a recruiter for the University of Phoenix, is working toward a master's degree in international business. She already has a master's in organization management.

The perfect man? they asked. "Can we just bring in my dad?" she said.

Some 40 people were lined up before the 10 a.m. start time, including Kristin Tessa, 24, an accountant from Palm Harbor. Tessa is "asset spelled backwards," she said.

The show "can't be any worse than the bar scene," she said. "They're sorting it out for you."

Tessa has never seen the show. But ex-fiancee Bill Berry, on hand to lend support, vouched that she was a cut above most contestants.

"Some of the women on there are idiots," Berry said. Tessa is "goal-oriented."

Another early bird, Chris Bird of Clearwater, wore a dark suit studded with an American flag pin.

He didn't see why he couldn't be on the show.

"I've got a wonderful personality," said Bird, a marketing producer for an entertainment company. "I'm the most communicative man in the world. I don't hide things. I don't play games. I'm financially stable. I'm family oriented. I'm ... "

Tessa tersely cut him off: "We're not writing a book here."

Adam Miller, 30, exuded a quiet confidence.

"I'm not Tom Cruise, but I'm a good guy," said Miller, a chemical processor in Lakeland who makes the explosives that activate the air bags in cars.

An orange envelope protected his mug shots. A resume listed his salary: $30,000.

"I'm not a millionaire," said Miller, sporting a goatee and wearing a fresh-pressed white shirt. "But I have a college education, I have my own house."

Darlene Fabelo, 34, figured TV was as good a place as any to find "Mr. Almost Right." She wasn't asking for too much.

"Family-oriented, financially stable, no mental issues," said Fabelo, marketing director for Tampa Sweetheart Cigars.

Anything else?

"Clean-cut," she said. "Not someone still smoking pot at 35, seven times a day."

_ Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matussptimes.com.

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